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Careers Centre

Biology - using your degree


Popular career areas for Biology students:

A degree from Scotland's first university is an excellent start to any future career. St Andrews has a reputation for excellence and the ability to attract the brightest students world-wide. With this as a starting point you are well on the way to impressing future employers.

Biology and related Life Science graduates have characteristics (see below) many employers seek therefore alumni are employed in a range of posts which may, or may not, be related to the discipline they studied. These include teaching, forensic scientist, higher education lecturer, immunologist, scientist, industrial research scientist, process developer, research scientist (medical), environmental ecologist, toxicologist, accountancy and other related financial professions, industrial and public sector management. Many Biologists take further postgraduate qualifications allowing them to enter health related careers such as medicine, nursing, physiotherapy and the lesser known profession of physicians associate.

Review your degree skills

The skills gained in a biology degree are highly desirable. Your research, analytical and numerical skills are especially marketable within the scientific sector and in other graduate roles.

Throughout your degree at St Andrews, you will develop a variety of skills that employers are looking for as well as developing your specialist knowledge. A biology degree develops:

• Research skills
• Critical reasoning, analytical and evaluation skills
• Ability to handle and analyse complex data
• Written and oral communication skills (through written work, and group work in the laboratories, etc.)
• Time management and organisation
• Monitoring and recording
• Independent work skills including time management and self-motivation

Where do our Biology graduates go?

Recent Biology graduates
Edinburgh International Science Festival - Science Communicator WWF - Marine Conservation Officer NHS - Edinburgh Royal Infirmary - Management Experience Assistant
Coutts & Co - Analyst/Private Banker RUTS - Rural and Urban Training Scheme - Project Co-ordinator United Environmental Services – Ecologist
Graduates who are established in their profession
TAQA - Environmental Advisor

ITN Productions - Researcher

Deloitte - Corporate Finance Advisory - Healthcare and Life Sciences

Stemcells Inc - Clinical Research Associate

British Army - Lieutenant

Scottish Oceans Institute - Research Assistant

Rachael Plunkett

Rachael graduated in 2011.  She is a Project Scientist for SMRU Marine.

Read Rachael's case study.

Alice Tuff-Lacey

Alice graduated in 2005.  She has worked as a Programme Manager for Cancer Research UK.

Read Alice's case study.


 Visit the Graduate Destinations page to see what graduates and postgraduates from your School are doing now.

Network with alumni

Many jobs and internships are not advertised.  One of the best ways to find out about these ‘hidden opportunities’ is by networking.  Networking can also help secure a job that is publicised or is part of a training scheme.  Your contacts can open doors, set up meetings, help prepare you for interviews, and provide you with an inside look at a company or industry. 

How to contact alumni

There are two main ways to contact alumni on-line:

  1. Saint Connect - brings together alumni and current students to facilitate networking, enable informal mentoring, provide industry discussion groups, and enable graduates and students to stay up to date with their student societies and sports teams.
  2. LinkedIn - most comprehensive resource to connect with alumni is the University of St Andrews LinkedIn – Alumni Tool. There are also many LinkedIn St Andrews Groups, mainly based on location, which you can join to network with fellow students and alumni, eg St Andrews North America Careers Link.

Postgraduate study/research

In 2014, 46% of Biology graduates went on to do further study. 

A growing trend is for more Biologists to go straight onto a PhD. As a St Andrews graduate you have an extra year of experience compared to your English contemporaries and in addition the amount of hours you spend in the laboratory is often greater making transition straight onto PhD a more viable option.

Biologists wishing to enter health care roles often have the qualifications to enter the postgraduate route. The website NHS Healthcare Careers has the latest information on postgraduate courses which are also known as accelerated programmes.

Work based masters

Advisers are able and willing to discuss postgraduate applications - vocational and academic. 

Summer internships/work experience

Campus Opportunities:

Work experience is becoming ‘essential’ in the UK when it comes to securing graduate level employment.

During the 2015-16 academic year, more than 90% of the UK’s leading graduate employers offered paid work experience programmes for students and recent graduates. Altogether, 55% of St Andrews finalists had completed some element of work experience with a graduate employer whilst at university – much higher than the survey average. More than two-fifths had a part-time job during term-time and three-fifths had some form of casual vacation work. Source: High Fliers –The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2016.


Offer an internship program in various business areas.

Offer 12 week placements to penultimate years.

Merck, Sharp and Dohme
Offer summer placements in the pharmaceutical industry.


Cancer Research UK
Summer research internships at the Beatson Institute. This is an opportunity for bright undergraduate students considering a career in cancer research to find out what it is like to work in state-of-the-art labs alongside world-class scientists. Closing date is normally end of March.

Child Health Research Summer Studentships
These are non- clinical projects based in the UCL Institute of Child Health. Up to eight studentships are available to students studying science or medicine with maintenance support of at least £190 per week. Closing date is beginning of March.

The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) is an independent, non-profit and non-political student exchange organisation. It provides in technical degrees (primarily Science, Engineering and the applied arts) with paid, course-related, training abroad and employers with highly skilled, highly motivated trainees, for long or short term projects. With over 80 countries involved and exchanging over 4000 traineeships each year worldwide, it is the largest organisation of its kind in the world.

Imperial College London - Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme
Imperial College offer research opportunities in science and technology to undergraduate students.

Medical Research Council
The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) is a world-class research laboratory. The LMB Summer Studentships scheme is aimed at undergraduate students who are considering a future in academic research.The studentships provide hands-on experience of research and a true feel for what it is like to work in a lab. Summer students join one of the research groups at LMB and carry out original research, working along side LMB scientists with full access to the world-class facilities at the LMB. Applications need to be in early in the year.

The Francis Crick Institute
An interdisciplinary medical research institute, offering short placements to give students hands-on experience and a true feel of what it's like to work in a lab..

RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) – Germany/Worldwide
RISE offers unique opportunities for Bachelor students to work with research groups at universities and top research institutions across Germany for a period of 2 to 3 months during the summer.

The Taiwan International Graduate Program International Internship Program (TIGP-IIP)
Paid Summer Internship Opportunities in Taipei, Taiwan. The TIGP is a unique all-English Ph.D. program supported by Academia Sinica, the most prestigious research institution in Taiwan. In collaboration with top-ranking local research universities, the TIGP would like to invite outstanding young scholars from around the globe to experience Taiwan’s scientific research facilities and to participate in build an intellectual network of people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the premier centres of genomic discovery and understanding in the world. It leads ambitious collaborations across the globe to provide the foundations for further research and transformative healthcare innovations.A wide range of placements are typically available to students studying for their first degree (including medical and veterinary students) who are seeking research/work experience, usually during the summer break. They also welcome applications from master students.

Funding research - Scholarships & Awards


Bright Green Placements
Offer a variety of paid placements, summer and graduate, in small Scottish companies, roles are normally related to sustainability and/or the environment. Several students have used these placements as springboard to a graduate role. Further details.

Mott MacDonald
Global Engineering and Development Consultancy which offer environmental science summer internships.

Corporate Citizenship
A global corporate social responsibility consultancy which runs three internship programmes throughout the year in London and New York.

Fulbright Commission ; The Study of the US Institute for European Student Leaders
This funded US study programme allows you an insightful academic as well as cultural experience. Read the case study of a St Andrews student who successfully applied to the programme.

Other Related Internships - Science Communication, Life Sciences, Fund Raising, Marketing etc

Provides students with paid, relevant work experience in the Life Sciences sector. Open to undergraduate students who are studying at a UK University. Placements last from ten to twelve weeks between June and September each year.

Cancer Research UK
12 week summer internships based in London supporting the head office teams with events and fund raising.

Wellcome Trust
Offers a number of paid summer internships at Trust HQ. These are aimed at giving current undergraduates the chance to experience working an area of the Trust that interests them such as – editorial, policy, grants management, engaging science, education and learning.

Case studies

Key links and resources

Career related

Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines

These can often be a good source of information on internships, jobs and postgraduate study.